The Wokingham Borough Community Response group is continuing to adapt to support the community during the coronavirus crisis.
Charities and organisations working together to form the group include Wokingham Borough Council, First Days Children’s Charity, Citizens Advice Wokingham, Link Visiting Scheme, Wokingham Foodbank, the Wokingham Volunteer Centre and Involve Community Services.
Over the last 12 weeks, Citizens Advice have helped more than 2,060 households through One Front Door. Of those households, 616 are classed as extremely vulnerable.
The organisation offers guidance on a range of issues from benefit and employment enquiries to food and prescription requests.
Jake Morrison, the charity’s chief executive, said: “In the last 12 weeks we have helped as many people as we did in the whole of last year. That is thanks to our brilliant team of volunteers and staff.
“But also thanks to the great funders and charities we work with, recently we launched a series of ‘in conversation with livestream interviews – you can find them on our website, www.citizensadvice wokingham.org.uk/live-streams
Anyone who needs support should contact Citizens Advice on 0300 330 1189 (entering 0118 978 7258 if prompted) Monday to Saturday 9am to 5pm.
Wokingham Volunteer Centre
The Wokingham Volunteer Centre is helping people get their prescriptions and tackle their unruly gardens. With approximately 15 active volunteers across the borough, staff report the centre has seen a reduction in prescription requests to only two a day as more people are turning to their local Covid-19 groups for help.
The service has delivered more than 820 prescriptions since they started.
Two weeks ago its gardening service, Green and Tidy, started back up again and volunteers have worked on approximately 40 gardens over the fortnight.
After running the scheme for over five years, Green and Tidy’s project coordinator Miguel Ogilvie will be retiring. Mr Paul King, who has been volunteering for the last three years, will be taking over to lead the service.
Discussions are currently taking place regarding starting up the centre’s transport scheme and staff report they hope to be on the road again by mid-July.
The organisation is encouraging anyone who can to volunteer for a local charity, with some of the latest opportunities on page 22.
Helena Badger, volunteer development coordinator at The Wokingham Volunteer Centre, said: “We’re still supporting charities to recruit volunteers. There’s a lot of need for help in the area dealing with the crisis and beyond.”
For updates on specific roles that are needed visit: wokinghamvolunteercentre.org.uk.
The Link Visiting Scheme
The charity is currently running a telephone buddy system offering social support and friendship over the phone.
The organisation has 1,500 people on their records for a fortnightly welfare call and 350 on their telephone buddy system for calls two to three times a week.
Marjie Walker, manager at The Link Visiting Scheme said: “It’s Loneliness Awareness Week this week – we recognise that lots of people may be experiencing lockdown loneliness.
“When you start feeling lonely it decreases your desire to socialise and the thought of social interaction can make you feel anxious.
“These are perfectly normal feelings but we need to overcome them to have a greater sense of well-being as we begin to socially connect again.
“If anyone is struggling to connect and would like some extra support, then they can call us.”
Volunteers have said how rewarding it is making fortnightly welfare check calls. One volunteer said: “It has been a pleasure to call people and chat and hopefully give them some reassurance that there are many people offering to help.”
To refer someone for support or to apply to be a Link volunteer visit www.linkvisiting.org or call 0118 979 8019 on weekdays from 9am until 5pm.
Wokingham Community Hub
The Wokingham Community Response’s distribution hub, which is run by First Days Children’s Charity, is currently based at St Crispin’s Leisure Centre but will be moving to Cantley Park this weekend.
The hub has fed more than 2,300 people, making over 4,550 deliveries to 892 households over the last 12 weeks.
The team have been saying goodbye to many of their volunteers this week as processes change and the hub changes its location.
Katie Brook, a volunteer at the hub, expressed her gratitude for the experience: “During such a difficult time, I have found friendship and love. I know how cheesy that sounds but it’s so true.
“Volunteering for the Community Hub has opened my eyes to a much wider problem in our community. People need support, a listening ear and there are a lot of people struggling financially right under our nose.
“I will never be the same again and I know this isn’t the end of my personal journey volunteering in the community.
“I want to say thank you to the staff at Wokingham Council who have been working at The Hub every day.
And First Days Children’s Charity who have led the team, developed the ideas and supported so many who were/are desperately in need. I feel very privileged to have been a small part of the team.”
Debra Morrison, manager at CLASP charity said: “The community hub for me has been a fantastic experience and shows the power of the voluntary sector.
“A group of like-minded people who wanted to make a difference pulling together to offer a great and efficient service.
“Plus I have made some lovely friends, learnt a lot about people’s lives and CLASP have got more support.
“A real win-win.”
Molly Reeves, a volunteer at the hub said: “Being a volunteer has been key to me keeping it together by helping others. Amazing group of people all with massive hearts looking out for their community.
“Amazing how quickly it sprung into action, making a huge difference to lots of people.”
The hub are currently in need of: breakfast cereal, porridge, soup, pasta, rice, noodles, tinned meals, tinned desserts, custard, tinned vegetables, tinned fish and meat, biscuits, shop bought cakes, snacks, dog and cat food, cat litter, soap and washing up liquid.
To contribute financially to the response visit the Justgiving page: www.justgiving.com/campaign/WokinghamBoroughCV19
All money raised will go to fund food parcels and any funds left over once the food hub has closed will be distributed to the voluntary sector organisations involved in this combined response.
For more information and the latest updates visit: www.facebook.com/wokinghamcommunityhub